Unlike D.L. Mayfield, I always knew I wouldn’t make a good missionary. I never felt “called” to participate in a short-term trip in high school or college and I was often uncomfortable with certain practices of experience trips. Friends who are lifelong missionaries reminded me that not all are asked to live their lives on a mission field – many are needed to have regular jobs, to write checks of support for missionaries, to pray for them and have guest rooms for respite. Missions doesn’t look the same for everyone.
In her debut book, Assimilate or Go Home, D.L. Mayfield chronicles her journey of young zealous missionary to a life of gracious missional living. This is a memoir done well. Mayfield’s essays are cohesive and a good balance of personal insights, observations from the field, and constructive critique of the church’s view of missions.
Mayfield always knew she wanted to be a missionary and assumed that some foreign, impoverished country is where she would end up living. Surprisingly, she ended up ministering to her neighbors in low income apartments on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Her idealism fades as the reality of poverty hits: Most refugees have made somewhat of a lateral move when coming to the United States, just barely surviving. The systemic cycle of poverty is much more complex than any overarching government program can fix. Even foster care, when you know the families of the children being removed, becomes a deeper question than simply giving kids a “better” home.
Mayfield grapples with hard questions – ones she lives with on a daily basis. Her honesty is refreshing. She is living out idealism that most of us can’t fathom and she doesn’t sugar-coat the experience. But she doesn’t quit, either. She and her family are committed to living this life among the poor, of being good neighbors, of practicing the ministries of cake and video games and showing up.
I appreciated her thoughtful, gracious examination of life as a missionary. Her essays told an overarching story and I felt like I learned a lot about the lives of people right here in my own country that I never really thought much about. I would recommend this book to anyone who has worked as a missionary – at home or abroad – and anyone working with those who live on the margins.
What’s your view of missions and missional living? Have you ever been a missionary – either short or longterm?
(I decided to include this review as part of my Write 31 Days challenge of Live Your Strengths, as it seemed to fit so well into this past week of Connectedness.)